Safety First: African American Police & African American Males

 

“While we must support effective law enforcement, we must also exercise our constitutional rights to ensure law enforcement works as it should-to protect all Americans regardless of race or ethnicity.”

-National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

 

My Dear Readers,

There is an uneven playing field when it comes to encounters between the police and African-American males of all ages.  These encounters often become negative due to the lack of awareness by African-American males as to what actions the police may take when these encounters happen. As a result:

  • Overall, young African-Americans are killed by police officers 4.5 times more than people of other races and ages.
  • In comparison to white male teens, black male teens are 21 times more likely to be killed.
  • One study found that African-Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people.

Through our Loving Me More subsidiary, Kane & Associates LLC has created a brochure specifically directed towards encounters between African-American males and the police. Despite the intent to inform, there has been criticism on this effort.

Below is such a story……..

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Dear Dr. Kane,

Like you, I am also an African-American and the son of a police officer.  Unlike you, however, I am not anti-police, nor did I choose to betray my father’s profession.  In fact, I am a member of law enforcement in one of the local cities in Washington State.

While visiting my sister and two nephews recently, the oldest one handed me a brochure he had picked up at the local community club where he goes to play basketball.  The brochure, entitled African-American Males and The Police, apparently gave tips on how to interact with the police.   Being very concerned and alarmed at what my nephews were being exposed to, I looked you up and read a number of your blogs.

You appear to be a very angry person.  I was surprised that you are as educated as you are. I was even more surprised to learn that you are a counselor and are treating others for their problems.  If anyone needs treatment, you should be the first one in line. Why are you so angry and bitter, especially towards members of law enforcement?  Did you grow up hating your father?  Did you have a problem with authority figures while you were in school? Do you realize the damage that is being done when you tell young people to avoid being honest with police officers?  Do you realize or even care that you are teaching them disrespect for law and for those who enforce the law?

I saw how hard my father worked to keep the streets safe, interacting with people and enforcing the law.  My father was a very honorable man.  Before he passed away, he saw me get sworn in as a police officer.  He had tears in his eyes.  He was so proud of me. It infuriates me to know that another black man, the son of a police officer, could be so disrespectful to the profession that fed, clothed and provided shelter for his family.  As police officers, we are constantly under attack from members of the public as we enforce the law.  It is more frustrating for me that members of the black community do not trust or show respect for the police officer that patrols their community or the badge the officer wears.

I took an oath to protect and serve my community.  My fellow officers and I place ourselves at risk each time we put on the uniform.  Recently one of our brother officers, a state patrol officer in another state, was shot and killed by an intoxicated person carrying a sawed-off shotgun.   We know the risks and still, we do the job.

So, if you have daddy issues, seek help from your own profession.  And when it comes to the profession of policing, if you can’t write brochures that are positive and reinforce law and order in our society, especially the black community, it is best that you don’t write anything about policing.  We have enough headaches, nuts and dissatisfied people to deal with.

Speaking Up For The Profession, Kent, WA

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My Dear Police Officer,

First, I want to thank you for your service to our community.  It is clear that whatever community you patrol is safer due to your efforts.   I have no doubt that you and I, in our respective professions, received similar training and advice regarding what to take personally, and what is part of the job.  This is the life we have chosen. 

Many of us in the mental health and law enforcement fields select such professions because of a calling to be of service to one’s community.  Although much of what you wrote is a personal attack, I can also see the frustration you may be experiencing, being a:

  • Black male
  • Male
  • A police officer

I want to begin by addressing some of the statements and assumptions you have made.

My Professional title

My work, although you defined my work as “counselor” I am a psychotherapist serving in dual roles being a clinical traumatologist and forensic evaluator.  As a psychotherapist, I work in the area of complex trauma, working with those who may be severely emotionally ill following carrying trauma for many years in their lives. 

Mental Health Treatment

I have also been involved in receiving mental health treatment.  As a psychotherapist working with those responding to complex traumatic experiences, it is beneficial for me as well to sit in therapy with a fellow colleague and explore concerns related to my work.  It is normal in the work of psychotherapy that my colleagues pursue similar assistance. 

Daddy issues

I do not have “daddy issues,” and as it is not germane to our discussion, this is the extent to which I will discuss it.

 

Given this, I will address your more serious concerns:

 “Do you realize the damage that is being done when you give young people tips to avoid being honest with police officers?  Do you realized or even care that you are teaching them disrespect for law and for those who enforce the law.”

In response, the brochure specifically presents two action items, 1) a therapeutic model (CBT) to reinforce self-empowerment and 2) clearly defined behavioral guidelines of what to do when interacting with a police officer or any member of a law enforcement agency.

The therapeutic model is “Know your ABC’s (Advocacy, Balance & Calmness) 

  • Advocacy-Knowing when to “hold” or “show” your cards. Knowing when to speak and what to say.
  • Balance-Remember that your power lies within and cannot be taken from you without your consent. Balance your anger with your wisdom.
  • Calmness- Use your balance and your inner empowerment to project calmness to the outside world. Use this to defuse the situation.

Behavioral Guidelines (from the African American Males And The Police brochure)

  • Always comply and follow the police officer’s instructions.
  • Speak in a respectful tone.
  • If you are under the age of 18, immediately inform the police officer of this.
  • If you are under the age of 18, be sure to request that your parent, legal guardian, or legal representative be present.
  • If you choose not to speak, inform the police officer of your intent to remain silent until you have representation.
  • After that, immediately stop talking.
  • Use your power of observation. Document the incident and any concerns regarding any behavior during the encounter.
  • Remember to get the date, time and location, the license plate and vehicle number, the badge number of the police officer and the name of the department he/she work for.
  • Remember that the police officer is entitled to use deadly force if he/she feels physically threatened.
  • If needed, file a complaint with the local sheriff or police chief’s office.

It is my position that both the model and behavioral guidelines provide:

  • Empowerment rather than powerlessness in maintaining one’s safety and security.
  • Awareness of the ability to advocate for self as well as ownership of reaction and calmness in response.
  • Understanding that encounters with police officers can be resolved with administrative redress within the police department
  • Creation of a specific protocol, which may assist the individual to have a safe encounter with law enforcement.

It may be the main issues that contribute to your discomfort with information from the brochure are:

  • Minimization of the advantage of surprise by the police officer.
  • Increased knowledge of basic police procedure for a more informed public and,
  • Release of the general uneasiness of the person being stopped and questioned by the police

 

Concluding Words

I respect the concerns you and your fellow officers have regarding being safe in the streets and being able to return to your loved ones.   I also remember my mother and I staying awake waiting for my father to return safely home.  The recent death of the Louisiana State Patrol Officer was tragic.  As you mourn the loss, please know that the communities he and you and your colleagues protect mourn as well. It is my sincere hope that the information I have shared in the brochure will reduce tension and ease when there is an encounter between an African-American youth or young adult and the police.

This is a new day for community policing.  The time of trust simply because someone wears a badge has passed.  We have witnessed too many incidents in which young African-American males have either been severely injured or killed following encounters with police. Instead of focusing on trust for the badge, let us focus on respect between the person wearing the badge and the individual being stopped for a lawful encounter.  I am hopeful that the brochure will add to the respect so mentioned.

Let’s all be careful out there.

Until the next crossroads…. the journey continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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